Posted: Tuesday 17th March 2020
Dear Church Family,
You don’t need me to tell you that these are extraordinary days. Along with the entire country (dare I say, world) we are attempting to work out what it means for us to respond responsibly.
Yesterday evening, following the Prime Minister’s first daily update in which he instructed us to avoid all non-essential gatherings, we took the decision to cancel all church meetings (of every size, midweek and Sunday) with immediate effect and until further notice. I imagine this will leave many with questions. In this email I will attempt to answer some of the questions I can anticipate. But more of that in a moment.
First things first
First, in this unprecedented time, when there is understandable fear for the vulnerable, I have been helped to remember (and indeed to pray) the Lord’s prayer, and I have been especially helped by the first line of that prayer, “Our Father, in Heaven.”
As Jesus taught his disciples to pray he told them to pray in the light of who God is. He is in heaven and He is our Father. In heaven, reminds us that He is the sovereign ruler of the universe. When John was given a vision of God in heaven, John saw God on the throne (Revelation chapter 4). In heaven, God is sovereignly ruling. That might pose us many questions at a time like this. But it’s far worse to think that everything is out of control and that God isn’t reigning. God’s sovereign rule means that in prayer, we come to a God who can do something. A God who can act. A God who is still bringing about His purposes for a lost and broken world.
That’s wonderfully reassuring, but it doesn’t stop there. In teaching us to pray the Lord’s prayer, Jesus told us to remember that God is our Father. He is not a distant God, moving us around like dispensable pawns on a chessboard. No, He is “Our Father”. Your Father and mine. He cares deeply for you and for me. He is personal and loving and more concerned for us than even the best human father is for their children.
Knowing these great truths doesn’t see concerns and anxieties and the coronavirus melt away. Life is tough right now. The situation is dangerous for some. There’s confusion and uncertainty about the future. The issues are huge. But, knowing “Our Father, in Heaven” gives me someone to go to - someone who loves me deeply and someone who can do something. That’s deeply reassuring. It means that in Christ, I know that ultimately I’m safe. Dear friends, be reassured.
The impact of suspending all gatherings
Now, having taken the decision to suspend all gatherings, what does all this mean for us? When Jesus summarised the law, he told us that we should love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbour as ourselves.
In this current climate we want to love our neighbour
Our first concern is for the vulnerable. We are encouraging our small groups to look out for, and appropriately care for one another. Our pastoral care teams are similarly ready to respond in appropriate ways to offer any support we can reasonably give. If you need help, or know of anyone who does, please contact us through the use of this form.
If you feel well and able to help others, we would encourage you to responsibly contact your neighbours to offer help. You might consider putting a card like this through neighbours' letter boxes. But if you decide to do this please keep yourself safe - physically and in every other way.
This is a time when we have a unique opportunity to show the love of God in Christ to those around us who have no-one to turn to.
In these current circumstances we want to love God
We also want to encourage each other to love God. That’s one key reason why we meet together. Suspending all our meetings poses a challenge for us, but we live in an age when we’re better connected than ever before. During this time of social isolation we will be recording a weekly sermon and we are currently considering other ways we can build up one another. Links will be sent out and posted on the website at fulwoodchurch.co.uk/coronavirus
Use the time and stay connected
On top of the things we can organise, there are many ways we can use this time and stay connected. If you find yourself with extra time you can use it to read the Bible and pray more - the world needs us to pray.
It might be that you find yourself with more time together as a family. Use those times to make the most of family time together and not least of all by starting, re-starting or spending more time reading the Bible, talking and praying together.
With FaceTime and Whatsapp (other social media platforms are available!) at our finger tips, one to one Bible studies can continue from the comfort of our own homes, even though we won’t be meeting in coffee shops.
Many of you are far more imaginative that I am. It’ll be interesting to hear how you make the most of these circumstances.
For now, be assured that we, the staff team, will continue to pray for you (we are committed to praying in our own homes at the precise time we usually gather for prayer each week). I will miss our meeting together, but we can make the most of these circumstances.
I can do no better than to leave you with John’s greeting to Gaius,
“Dear Friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” (3 John 2).
Your friend and brother in Christ,
Vicar, Christ Church Fulwood